Tag Archives: historiography

The Americanist Independent: Volume One in Review

President_George_WashingtonGreetings all!

Volume One of the open-access web journal, The Americanist Independent is officially in the books.

I am extraordinarily happy with how all eight issues turned out. What’s more, I am thrilled to have worked with a number of very talented teachers, students, and independent historians. We did a good thing, folks!

For those of you how have yet to subscribe (remember…it’s gratis) you can do so HERE and click on any of the tabs. I suggest you begin with Scholarship. Here’s what you’ll get:


Issue One:

Explorations in Visualizing the Irish of the American Civil War by Damian Shiels

The American Slave: A Database – An Examination of the Methodology and results of Digitizing the Slave Narrative Collection by Keith D. McCall

Those Gals Had it Easy: The Conspicuously Untroubled Lives of Boydton Virginia’s Reconstruction Belles by Samantha Upton

RockinThruHistory: Learning History One Song at a Time by Damien Drago

Issue Two:

Chasing After the Daughter of the Lost Cause by Heath Hardage Lee

The North Carolina Confederate Pensions, Past and Present by Aaron M. Cusick

The Civil War Institute Annual Conference at Gettysburg College: CWI2014 Reviewed.

Harristorian Archives: The Pennsylvania Report of the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg

Issue Three:

The Checkbook is an Autobiography: The Case of Henry Clay Folger (1857-1930) by Stephen H. Grant

The Letters and Writings of Bill Evans, World War II Aviator by Mike Rogers

Recreating the “Good War”: Pride and Pitfalls in WWII Reenacting by Jared Frederick

Controlling Atoms: Evaluating the AEC During the Eisenhower Years, 1952-1958 by Nick Lacasse

Issue Four:

Creating Veteran Identity for Women within the Veterans Administration by Amy Rebecca Jacobs

Selling Mr. Consumer: Forming Male Consumer Identity by Nick Lacasse

The Tide of Domesticity: A Study of Gender, Environment, and Florida’s  Indian River Culture –  1870 and 1890 by Dara R. Vance

Every Piece of This War is Man’s Bullshit: The Women of Cold Mountain, a Review Essay by M. Keith Harris

Issue Five:

California Gold, Privateering, and the Russian Navy: A Story of the American Civil War by Glenna Matthews

“When Cleverness and Knowledge Arise, Great Lies Will Flourish”: Civil War Soldiers and Calculated Manipulation on the Battlefield by Mary C. Roll

History in the Classroom and the Interactive Notebook: A Conversation with Luke Rosa by M. Keith Harris and Luke Rosa

“Not All They Resolved It To Be”: A Review of The Field of Lost Shoes by Robert Moore

Issue Six:

One Nation, One Flag, One Language: The Grand Army of the Republic and Patriotic Instruction in Indiana by Nicholas W. Sacco

The March of Freedom: African-Americans in the United States Military and their Affect on the Civil Rights Movement, 1880-1950 by Aaron Nathaniel Stockel

Military Race Riots During the Second World War by Elizabeth Lambert

Fury: A Historical Review by Micha Benjamin Flowers

Issue Seven:

Messengers of Uplift: Fisk University Student Resistance in 1925 by Dara R. Vance

Podcasts and History: Why More Historians and Public History Organizations Should Podcast by Elizabeth M. Covart

Civil War Military Historians are Freaking Out by Megan Kate Nelson

In Defense of Gallagher, Hess, and Meier by Kevin Levin

Issue Eight:

LBJ and the Electrification of the Texas Hill Country by Jena Fuller

Patriotic Profiteers: Lykens County Coal Company and the Civil War by Jake Wynn

The Siege of Milwaukee: The Cause and Effect of Anti-German Sentiment by Kevin Kolesari

And there you have it – if you are a new subscriber you clearly have a lot of reading to do! Volume Two, Issue One is in the works – and things are looking great…so stay tuned for summer!

With compliments,


The Americanist Independent

The Americanist Independent is Once Again Up and Running

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 7.50.42 AMFriends, there is some good news here and some better news. The good news is that The Americanist Independent website is out of beta and now live for your reading pleasure. Yes indeed, you can once again read up on all the cutting edge scholarship, innovative teaching, and the arts in American History. Yay.

Here’s the better news: now it’s completely FREE. As a public historian I think it is best that this work is available to the entire public – open access. Not only is site access entirely gratis, but it looks better and runs much more smoothly than the beta version. As of November 9, 2014, much of the site is still under construction but all AI issues are available. You will still need to set up a profile (to keep out the spammers) only now there is no charge.  It’s FRREEEEEE (huzzah).

Sign on HERE.

With compliments,


Holy Shit. Finally.

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 8.26.32 AMThe other day my lovely wife returned from checking the mail and said to me – “Hey, you got something addressed to “Professor” Keith Harris.” This usually means Almae Matres or various historical societies are looking for donations. But this time things were different. It was a book. My book.

Yes friends at long last my book, Across the Bloody Chasm: The Culture of Commemoration among Civil War Veterans has taken physical form.

It’s currently available  from the Louisiana State University Press. You can get it HERE.

Thanks in advance – and I hope you enjoy it!


Bitter Fruits of Bondage by Armstead Robinson

Screen Shot 2014-05-04 at 6.05.10 PMThere is an interesting story behind the book, Bitter Fruits of Bondage: The Demise of Slavery and the Collapse of the Confederacy, 1861-1865 . Civil War scholar Armstead Robinson passed away in 1995. He had been working on this book for years but never completed it. Since his death, a number of scholars pieced together the manuscript and selected evidence and arguments (from diverse and often conflicting segments) to make this book the best representation of Robinson’s voice as possible.

By the time it was finally published in 2005, Robinson’s book was far out of date, even though Edward L. Ayers’s jacket blurb says otherwise. This book is a child of the 1980s – when social historians were searching for the internal divisions that destroyed the Confederate States of America. Their efforts sought to disprove Lost Cause arguments suggesting northern superiority in men and material did the Confederacy in. Had Robinson published his book back then, it would have been a monument in the historiography. As it is now, it is a window into the past, but not useful to advance the understanding or challenge more recent scholarship on why the Confederates lost.

The point of this book is simple enough: The southern way of life was unable to provide the support necessary to sustain a war effort – specifically, slavery sapped nationalism from the very beginning.

Robinson highlights the class tensions between slaveholders and increasingly bitter yeomen and other nonslaveholders. This is a familiar tale (see also William Freehling’s The South V. The South on internal dissension) of a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight. Slaveholders duped everyone else into waging war, and it then became apparent (because of substitutes and 20 slave laws) that the nonslaveholders were fighting to maintain a system that only benefited rich whites – all the while the very same rich whites were weaseling their way out of the army.

Meanwhile, slaves were fleeing to Union lines in great numbers, denying the CSA their labor and handing it over to the US war effort. This served to exacerbate growing tensions between the white classes. Bread riots at home and huge desertion rates suggested that Confederate soldiers and civilians were not behind the war effort – particularly an effort conceived on the premises of a “slaveholders republic.”

Arguing that an internal class conflict eroded the white southern will to sustain a bid for independence is to confront directly the heritage of the Lost Cause. Many things: the peculiar configuration of Confederate mobilization, the genesis of popular discontent with the war effort, the failure of agricultural adjustment, the birth of state rights ideology, the halting attempts by Jefferson Davis to cope with rampant internal dissension, the disintegration of Confederate society – all of these stemmed from the Confederacy’s failure to preserve stability on the home front. The Civil War South discovered that it could not sustain wartime slavery and simultaneously retain the allegiance of the nonslaveholding majority – and thus…the Confederacy was destroyed from within.

Now I disagree with this argument entirely – I believe that the overwhelming majority of white southerners supported the cause – despite the grumblings that take place when a society goes to war. They supported independence and slavery – even the nonslaveholders had a stake in the system. But I suggest reading this book – it is a great time capsule of sorts. And although published early in the 21st century…it is a nice window into the historiography of the 1980s.

With compliments,


Did Thomas Starr King Save California for the Union?

2-3-4Well, that’s the legend anyway. In reality – his efforts didn’t amount to the whole difference…but he certainly did what he could. For Californians, King’s popularity as a preacher and a lecturer made him the “moral tutor to the commonwealth.” According to one historian, King challenged Californians to “highmindedness” and to seek, as he put it, “Yosemites of the soul.”

During the Civil War he preached the Union – one and indivisible. And he did so when other preachers foresaw alternate futures for the Golden State. Charles Edward Pickett, for example, called for a independent Pacific Republic free from the colonial relations with the East. William Anderson Scott thought that California could be a great pluralist haven for northerner and southerner alike. Scott was run out of the state when he offered prayers for both Presidents Davis and Lincoln.

But King was all for the Union. He stumped for Lincoln in 1860 and Leland Stanford in 1861. He spoke up and down the state and inspired Californians to lead the nation in contributions to the Sanitary Commission. Imaging a reconciled future – he preached of the Pacific Slope in reconciliationist terms. “And they shall come from the east and the west, and from the north and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.”

In his efforts – he wore himself down. King died of pneumonia and diphtheria on March 4, 1864. “Keep my memory Green,” King said as he died, and Californians obliged. His statue, along with that of Junipero Serra, represent the state in the National Hall of Fame.

I recently read Kevin Starr’s Americans and the California Dream, in which he notes King’s enduring significance and the ecclesiastical side of California’s history. The earliest historiography was near silent on the religious history of the state – not until the 1880s did secular historians begin to take religion in California seriously. Check out Starr’s book – it is lively and engaging and well worth the read.

With compliments,